Pets and Infection Risk
Beloved household pets are an important part of a child’s care team during cancer treatment.
Cats and dogs are unlikely to present a threat to your child during treatment, but you should use common sense to protect against disease, worms or infection.
Parrots and parakeets can transmit the psittacosis infection.
Reptiles, including turtles, snakes and iguanas pose a risk of salmonella infection.
If your pet tends to bite or scratch, consider finding a temporary new home during chemotherapy. This may be very hard, but the animal could pose an infection risk for your child.
However, if your pet is gentle and well loved, do not give him away without very good reason. Research has shown that pets can be highly therapeutic, and a well loved pet will be a huge source of comfort for you and your child during cancer treatment.
If you have other children, encourage all of them to follow the precautions outlined below. This will reduce risk of potential infection and avoid resentment that can arise from singling out one child.
Ensure all your pets are up-to-date with vaccinations, and check regularly for worms and fleas. Take special care with puppies and kittens as they are more vulnerable to these pests. Tell the vet your child has cancer, and ask for a thorough examination of each pet at the start of treatment.
Ensure all family members thoroughly wash their hands after playing with or washing the pet. Use liquid soap, not a bar. Lather well with warm water, ensuring all portions of the hands and lower arms are well scrubbed. Use baby wipes or antibacterial gel (dry soap) while away from home.
Use special plates, bowls and serving cutlery for your pets, and wash them separately. Do not allow pets to eat off your own plates, or lick your child’s face.
Keep children away from the cat’s litter tray and any animal faeces outside. Keep sponges, gloves and drying cloths exclusively for cleaning litter trays. Ensure they are washed and changed regularly to prevent potential sources of infection.
Wash your dog if he comes into contact with significant water or mud. Keep a special wash cloth and towel handy to clean the dog’s feet before coming indoors.
Limit your children’s interaction with livestock as much as possible during chemotherapy. Ensure everyone who comes into contact with the animals thoroughly washes their hands afterwards. Change shoes and clothes before coming into the house.